Rat Terrier – Baby Got Back?

rat terrier back


Sir-Mix-A-Lot had the right idea even if he had the wrong species. While it is very easy to admire a beautiful expression, a nice front, and great training, please don’t forget about the rear of the Rat Terrier. While somewhat generic, the standard adequately describes a smooth, muscular rear that balances with the front, as having stifles that are well bent and short, and parallel hocks that are perpendicular to the ground. This description seems self-explanatory, and yet, dogs with significant structural issues in the rear are being awarded because they might appear balanced. The achievement of balance should not dismiss the fault of improper structure, angulation or movement for any breed.

Being called upon to course, tree, and go-to ground, it is important that all parts of this terrier be versatile enough to fulfill those many purposes. The hindquarters are muscular and smooth. The Rat Terrier is not coarse, nor is it fine-boned or toyish. While muscles are not bulging they should be visible, so do not mistake a dog with no muscle tone as having smooth muscles. Think athletic! Could the dog work all day and be happy about it? Yes! Does it look like it has? Even better. The structural integrity to build those kinds of muscles is necessary for the breed, and the lack of them is as important a clue to that integrity as the overabundance of them.

rat terrier back photo

Well-bent stifles give flexibility to the leg, making for a faster, smoother gait, more powerful jumping, longer rear drive, and more ability to go-to-ground. This physical trait of the rear seems to address all the jobs for which a Rat Terrier was bred and used, and should be stressed in a thorough evaluation of the breed. If the stifle is well bent and the hocks are perpendicular to the ground, there is no way to not have sufficient turn of hock. The lack of sufficient turn of hock should be the first indicator that at least one of the many parts of the rear has an issue that might compromise strength and stability.

The correct formation of all parts of the rear assembly creates structural integrity to support the body and balance the front. The rear is an important component of the breed. So, yes, check it out. Baby Got Back!

To add strength, drive, and endurance, a shorter hock allows for the hock to open and fully extend beyond vertical. Strong hocks aid in balance, precise turns, and clean jumps. In contrast, it has been theorized that a physical compensation for weak, “slipped” hocks is a roached topline in a breed where it is not called for—and it is not called for in the Rat Terrier.

Historically, Rat Terriers have had an issue with a long second thigh, that combined with only a slightly shorter hock has created an inappropriate slight-to-moderate roach, or a high rear. This undesirable trait might also give the appearance of an abrupt shelf behind the tail and long, thin rear legs that lack the proper muscle tone. In a very short period of time, Rat Terrier breeders have progressed in leaps and bounds in their attempts to reduce the second thigh length into proportion with the rest of the leg without drastically increasing the height of the hock. If the hock is too high it can aid in the sprint but will require more energy, so will negatively effect endurance.

Endurance can be compromised by the compensation for structural weakness in the rear, most commonly displayed in the breed in two different ways: barrel or cowhocks. When viewed from the rear, a barrel-hocked dog will appear bow-legged, with hocks that point outward instead of straight back. Oftentimes, this kind of compensation will result in an overabundance of muscle on the outside of the thigh compared to the inside of the thigh, and produce less angulation, a slower and more rigid gait with less drive, and a flat topline with a short croup and higher tail set.

Rat terrier back photos combined

In contrast, a dog that is cow-hocked, with hocks that angle toward each other, might have a very narrow thigh or more muscle on the inside of the thigh as compared to the outside, often with too much bend of stifle and turn of hock that produces a faster, sidewinding gait and often an imbalance in the topline with a slight roach, a long croup, and a lower tail set. So, it’s worth repeating: the hocks are parallel and perpendicular to the ground.

The correct formation of all parts of the rear assembly creates structural integrity to support the body and balance the front. The rear is an important component of the breed. So, yes, check it out. Baby Got Back!

  • I live on a little farm in Northeast Colorado. I’ve had dogs all my life; bred Rat Terriers for 28 years and been a UKC judge for 12 years, and an AKC judge for three years.

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